sweet mistake | 

Mum appears in court after her child (6) shared THC-laced jellies with classmates

'She made a mistake. But it's a mistake that has caused a lot of havoc in a public school district of renown'

Melinda Gatica later turned herself in

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A mother has appeared before a court in Michigan prison after her six-year-old child took a package of THC-laced jelly sweets to school and shared them with his classmates.

Four kids, aged between 5 and 6, from Edgerton Elementary School in Vienna Township, were later taken to a local hospital after feeling "short of breath, nausea and lethargic”.

According to a local TV station, Melinda Gatica later turned herself in to Genesee County authorities on Wednesday.

It has been reports that she faces up to 10 years in prison after she was charged with second-degree child abuse.

Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson said detectives initially believed the students had fallen ill due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

However, further investigation revealed the affected students had ingested THC.

According to authorities, Gatica infused gummies with THC oil, the addictive ingredient in marijuana, and left them out at home. Her six-year-old found the gummies and brought them to school to share, officials said.

Swanson previously said investigators believed each gummy had as much as 30 milligrams of THC oil.

"This is a criminal proceeding that could've easily been avoided with some simple precautions," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, said.

While recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan, the woman broke the law when leaving the edibles in a LifeSavers package easily accessible by her six-year-old, Leyton said.

"Nobody's saying she's a criminal," he said in a message on Facebook this week. "She made a mistake. But it's a mistake that has caused a lot of havoc in a public school district of renown. And we just can’t let that go untouched. You have to safeguard these products."

Gatica was arraigned on a charge of second-degree child abuse and appeared before 67th District Judge William H Crawford, according to court officials. She pleaded not guilty.

Gatica, who has no criminal record, "really has been shaken to her core by this," her attorney, Paul Scott, said in a statement last Wednesday.

"Melinda has been working at General Motors for 16 years and is a member of the Local 598," he told The Detroit News.

"She has completely cooperated with the investigation by both Child Protective Services ... and the Genesee County Sheriff's Department. CPS has drug tested and her home has been gone through twice now. She has tested clean with no substances and there have been none found in her home."

Scott added: "This was an unfortunate incident. CPS has not pursued removal of her children and Judge William J. Crawford made a reasonable and fair decision not to make her post any bond today at her arraignment as she was released on her own recognizance."

Gatica has a probable cause conference scheduled for May 12 "and we look forward to continuing cooperating with the process and coming to a fair resolution for all involved," Scott said. "She is an outstanding mother who has been deeply affected by this situation."

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